Drunks and Fools

by Alice Lowe

Matty and I became close friends over the several years we lived next door to each other. We confided in one another about jobs, homes, families and friends during walks and over coffee. Matty was married and loved to hear about my ventures and misadventures as a thirty-something returned to the singles scene. She was apologetic about having only her marital woes to offer in return. Her son, Jaime, was a little younger than my daughter and liked to hang out at our house; he trailed Jennifer around like a pesky but adoring little brother. The holidays can fall a little flat for an only child with a single mother—turkey for two doesn’t spark joy—so we were happy to join Matty’s family for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve dinners. Jennifer enjoyed the more festive familial atmosphere and Jaime’s companionship, while Matty’s pumpkin cheesecake and her mother’s cannoli are etched in my memory along with their kindness.

Matty’s husband, Frank, was a heavy drinker. I didn’t like him much even sober—he had that smug, know-it-all bravado that often masks insecurity and disillusionment. He would be on his best behavior at those holiday gatherings until later in the day or evening when the steady drinking brought out his worst. He was one of those mealy-mouthed drunks who get sappy and over-solicitous while thinking they’re being illuminating or entertaining. 

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Fanning the Flames

by Shira Sebban

“How are you, Saba?”

“I? I am old.”

This question and answer routine would be repeated each morning like a familiar ritual when we would ring to check on the “Old Boy” as he was affectionately known, who still lived alone in a flat nearby.

I assume he appreciated our concern, although he never said so. Still we need not have worried … not then. Relishing the solitude that enabled him to read, think and write—so long as it was interspersed with alternate dinners at his son’s and daughter’s homes each evening—he was keen to preserve his autonomy for as long as possible.

Until well into his eighties, Saba (Hebrew for grandfather) would continue his exercise and diet regime, doing daily sit-ups and stretches, taking afternoon naps, munching on carrot and celery sticks, and preserving prunes in jars, which took up almost all-available bench space in his kitchen, be it at home in Melbourne, Australia, or wherever he was living overseas. I can still recall our family kitchen in London, filled to overflowing with my grandfather’s preserves, his snores emanating from the tiny bedroom next to the one I shared with my sister.

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I Met My Mother's Body at Loehmann's

by Jan Zlotnik Schmidt

                     “Loehmann’s Closing Down After 94 Years”

                                 —New York Times, January 24, 2014

 

I met my mother’s body for the first time at Loehmann’s. There she was in a girdle, with those tabs for beige stockings, a white bra and half slip, staring down at me, a child looking up into the expanse of her flesh, her curves, her midriff bulging over the top of the elastic band of the slip. I was a six or seven or eight years old, crouching down, peering up at a glade of women’s legs—some stalk thin, some stockinged, some pudgy at the calves. And gazing upward I saw their serviceable Playtex bras, a glimpse of them, as they tried on blouses, sweaters, and jackets. We were at the back of the store—there were no dressing rooms—and in front of me were the gilt circular staircase, the crystal chandelier, enormous diamonds of filigreed glass, refracting the little afternoon light in the room. At the entrance, the men sat and waited, hunched over their Times, or Herald Tribune, or New York Mirror, women’s pocketbooks dangling from their arms, eyes looking down, not daring that taboo glance to the back of the store. 

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